The gap between attitudes and processes related to 'family-friendly' practices in anaesthesia training in New Zealand: A survey of anaesthesia supervisors of training and departmental directors

Anaesth Intensive Care. 2020 Nov 16;310057X20958716. doi: 10.1177/0310057X20958716. Online ahead of print.


Gender inequity persists within the anaesthetic workforce, despite approaching numerical parity in Australia and New Zealand. There is evidence, from anaesthesia and the wider health workforce, that domestic gender norms regarding parental responsibilities contribute to this. The creation of 'family-friendly' workplaces may be useful in driving change, a concept reflected in the gender equity action plan developed by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. This study aimed to explore the extent to which a family-friendly culture exists within anaesthesia training in New Zealand, from the perspective of leaders in anaesthesia departments. An electronic survey composed of quantitative and qualitative questions was emailed to all supervisors of training, rotational supervisors and departmental directors at Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists accredited training hospitals in New Zealand. Twenty-eight of the 71 eligible participants responded (response rate 39%). The majority (61%) agreed with the statement 'our department has a "family friendly" approach to anaesthesia trainees'; however, there was a discrepancy between views about how departments should be and how they actually are. Several barriers contributing to this discrepancy were identified, including workforce logistics, governance, departmental structures and attitudes. Uncertainty in responses regarding aspects of working hours, parental leave and the use of domestic sick leave reflect gaps in understanding, with scope for further enquiry and education. To redress gender bias seriously through the development of family-friendly policies and practices requires supportive governance and logistics, along with some cultural change.

Keywords: Anaesthesia, anaesthetist/physician, graduate medical education, gender inequality, gender equity, family friendly, parental leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, childbearing.